Has anyone else read "Shocking Life" - The V&A published autobiography by Elsa Schiaparelli?
Elsa, or "Schiap" as she calls herself, was an Italian fashion designer in my favourite design era - the 1920s and 30s - and although her name is less known than her contemporaries like Coco Chanel and Madeleine Vionnet, Schiap had a real impact on both the fashion of the time and today, being one of the forerunners for things like visible zippers, the wrap dress, tennis shorts, and this shade: "shocking pink"
|The Autobiography of Elsa Schiaparelli|
I got a few pages into the book and had to put it down to pull out this almost neon pink fabric I purchased well over 5 years ago and never did anything with. I went with that simple silhouette I love and return to again and again, but this time with bracelet length sleeves and a slightly flouncier and more playful skirt, with a light pink satin panel at the bottom.
Schiap's story is a real engrossing read, and despite her success she had more than her fair share of sadness and knock backs in life. Unbelievably she had no formal training in fashion and practically fell into design through a mixture of her social circle, luck, talent and sheer industriousness.
(Not everyone has the particular good fortune of having personal connections with a knitwear factory and an invite to a lunch party that includes a New York buyer for Strauss, to help launch a career....!)
But Schiap saw her opportunity and took it, giving us so many design gems along the way. (We can talk about the Lobster dress another time...)
This passage struck a particular chord with me, it might do the same for you:
"Dress designing...is a most difficult and unsatisfying art, because as soon as a dress is born it has already become a thing of the past. As often as not too many elements are required to allow one to realize the actual vision one had in mind. The interpretation of a dress, the means of making it, and the surprising way in which some materials react - all these factors, no matter how good an interpreter you have, invariably reserve a light if not bitter disappointment for you....A dress cannot just hang like a painting on the wall, or like a book remain intact and live a long and sheltered life...[it can become] an indifferent object, or even a pitiful caricature of what you wanted it to be - a dream, an expression."
On that note, please read Schiap's book. And - happy sewing!